Nile Rodgers: the Hitmaker

Fri Mar 29, 9-10pm, BBC4

‘He dipped it in the funk jar,’ reckons John Taylor, recalling Nile Rodgers’s treatment of Duran Duran’s ‘The Reflex’. Which more or less illustrates the problem of describing the indescribable: the sound conjured up by Chic’s co-brainchild (with the late Bernard Edwards)-turned-superproducer. Nile Rodgers himself opts for onomatopoeia: ‘the “la-la” era is over – we gotta do “doo-doo”.’

Self-effacing to a fault, Rodgers’s personality reflects a career of ceding the limelight, from his formative stretch in the Apollo Theatre’s houseband through to his desire for anonymity while fronting Chic to later career-reviving work with Madonna, Bowie and Diana Ross. So it’s appropriate that the music takes centre stage throughout this ebullient documentary.

Never, though, at the expense of Rodgers’s own remarkable life story. Quite how he’s survived a childhood with heroin-addicted parents, a career nearly derailed by anti-disco vitriol and then addiction, and most recently a bout of prostate cancer with such equanimity is a mystery. The feelgood show of the week.